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Homeopathic remedies can help you to manage your child’s symptoms of croup. Croup is a common childhood virus which causes swelling of the larynx and trachea (the upper airway.) Symptoms include hoarseness, runny nose, fever, breathing difficulty and a rather alarming characteristic harsh, barking cough and breathing that sounds like a whistle (stridor).

In addition to homeopathic medicine, parents need to use a moist environment (such as in the bathroom with the shower running, or a cool mist humidifier, or outside on the porch in the cool air (with the child wrapped up warmly) to try and relieve the coughing. If a child does not respond to moist air after 10 minutes or if the cough is accompanied by blueness around the mouth, medical attention should be sought right away. The four main remedies indicated in croup, are Aconite, Spongia, Drosera and Hepar Sulph.

Usually the first remedy indicated in croup is Aconite. It is given in the early stages and is often found in croup that comes on in the Autumn or winter, particularly after exposure to a cold, dry wind. The child may wake early in the night with a dry, choking, croupy cough. You’ll know it right away because it sounds like the bark of a seal or sea lion. The dry, hoarse, suffocating cough can have whistling or wheezing on expiration (breathing out) (the wheeze of Spongia is worse on inspiration). The skin is dry and there is restlessness, anxiety and fear.

Spongia is given after Aconite in croup when the cough is dry. It is described as a croupy or harsh cough with loud rasping. The child wakes from sleep before midnight with suffocative constriction of the throat. The cough is worse from excitement, talking, lying down and ice-cold drinks. The cough is better from drinking fluids that are not ice-cold and from eating. The child is anxious (like Aconite) but the wheezing is worse during inspiration (breathing in).

Drosera is sometimes seen in croup. The coughs are described as dry, spasmodic, croupy, with a barking or ringing sound. The spasms of coughing, especially after midnight may end in retching or vomiting. The child may have to support the chest or abdomen (ie hold it) while coughing to reduce the pain. The Drosera cough is worse lying down and can come on as soon as the head hits the pillow. It is also worse eating and drinking. The cough is mostly dry, although there can be some mucous or yellowish sputum.

Hepar Sulph is indicated in the later stages of croup after the mucous starts to rattle. The cough is less dry and more rattling than Aconite or Spongia. There may be lots of deep, wet coughing of thick, yellow phlegm. The cough is worse cold air, eating cold food and exposure to wind. Worse uncovering. Worse in the evening before midnight and towards morning and by deep breathing. The child is irritable, sensitive to touch and cold and feels better in warm, moist weather.

Remedy administration

With croup you will need to give the remedy more frequently when the symptoms are severe (every 30 min) and then less often when things settle (every couple of hours) As the symptoms change you need to be prepared to switch remedies.

If the child is in a severe stage and you have given up to 4 doses of a remedy and there is no improvement, change remedies. And of course, if the child is in distress and you are not getting relief from the remedies you should seek medical attention. If you have an instinct that you need to see a doctor or go to hospital, listen to it. Do not be surprised if the croup recurs for several nights, but it should improve and lessen each night instead of getting worse.

Croup feels very scary, there is often a sense of not being able to catch the breath and for a child or baby that is particularly frightening, so it’s important to do whatever you can to soothe and calm your little one, as symptoms can be worsened by agitation and crying. Many children find they’re able to breathe better when they’re sitting up and leaning slightly forward. You can help them build a “pillow fort” to help them sleep sitting up. Cuddles are also very helpful for keeping your child sitting up.

Warning signs of severe croup that need immediate medical attention –

  • Child makes loud, high pitched whistling sounds both when breathing in AND out.
  • Breathing sounds becoming noisier.
  • Has trouble swallowing and drools.
  • Seems nervous and hyper.
  • Is listless and hard to awaken.
  • Breathing is much faster than usual and child struggling to breath. You can see the child is too short of breath to walk or talk.
  • Skin around the nose, mouth or fingernails looks blue or grey.
  • You can see the neck and chest muscles pulling in as the child breathes.
  • The child is dehydrated, not weeing enough, the wee is dark, eyes look sunken, dry or sticky mouth.

Remember severe croup is rare and the barking cough often sounds worse than it is, but if you are concerned at any stage have a chat with your homeopath or doctor and seek reassurance and advice.

It is a good idea to ask your homeopath to prepare a remedy kit for you to keep on hand. Croup often starts in the middle of the night when you’re least expecting it and it’s very helpful to immediately give aconite. Also, if you try the above remedies and none have helped you should consult a professional homeopath who will look carefully at the symptoms experienced by your child. For croup that is recurrent it is a good idea to work with a homeopath to find a remedy that will strengthen your child’s constitution and help to prevent further episodes and certainly after an episode a constitutional remedy is a good idea.